Ahead of SPARK: 5 Minutes with Jason Little
Jason Little is one of the many talented creatives taking part in this year’s SPARK festival held at Wintec from August 14–17th. #Spark17 features a wide range of presentations, workshops and events. Tickets are at NO COST and available via Eventbrite.
Jason is co-founder of design agency For the People, who strive to close the gap between people, technology and design. SPARK Festival Director, Megan Lyon, spent a few moments recently chatting with Jason ahead of this year’s event:
Hi Jason, tell us… how do you deal with the challenges of your role?
There is never a dull moment as a founder/creative director of a studio. From trying to lay the foundations for some sort of creative vision to permeate the practice, to being a guide and mentor to staff, to helping clients achieve success. It’s a juggling act that seems to change everyday. The biggest challenge is trying to maintain a sense of self, not get bogged down when times are tough, and instead keep an optimistic view of life and the difference you can make.
What informs your practice?
When we started For The People, we were very conscious of trying to do things differently than we’d perhaps done prior (because why wouldn’t you when starting a new company?). That has meant a constant testing of new business models, and new ways of working. We’ve looked towards Silicon Valley in the pursuit of a more entrepreneurial approach to running a business. Over the past three years we’re been trying to close the gap between people and organisations, through design, storytelling and technology.
At the same time we’ve been trying to build a culture of learning, self expression and growth for our team. We run a weekly book club, have a constant sharing of information, articles and inspiration, and our people exhibit a continuous thirst for knowledge in our business, driving new though pieces and thinking. I’ve never worked with a more driven and intellectual bunch of people.
As a business, no matter what we have achieved or failed at, there is always a general feeling of us being a work in progress. And being happy with that imperfect and incomplete idea is something we’ve become accustomed to.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Every project has a different set of outcomes that I’m proud of, be it the creative work itself, the client relationship, the journey to get there, the team dynamic, the impact and effect of the work. Usually it’s a combination of most of these that make a project something I can be proud of. Large brand identity projects like The City of Melbourne and Optus really helped to define who I am as a designer. Equally working for arts organisations is really rewarding creatively, and allows you to really push the envelope of your thinking and expression. I’ve always been a sucker for doing purposeful work with organisations and people where I can really feel I’ve made a significant impact and positive change. In recent years the work I’ve been doing with with Sydney Dogs and Cats Home has been something I’m most fond of. It’s a simple equation really: Animals (can substitute with any worthy cause) + engaged client x (fun journey + great team) = great creative outcome that effects positive change and results.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Scotland, England, and Germany, travelling a lot as a kid. After studying Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art and Kansas University, I was fortunate enough to be given a break in design. Fast forward 20 years and I’d worked at several agencies in the UK, Paris and Australia. In 2014 I co-founded For the People with all the hopes and aspirations that come with starting out on you own. I also intended to have more time to surf, see more of the world, and enjoy the finer things in life… but these have yet to happen.
What do you do?
For the People helps companies and organisations engage better with audiences and customers through imagining and designing new communications and experiences to encourage new behaviours. Although much of my past has been working on large-scale branding projects for destinations and organisations, these days our projects are less prescriptive in the outcome and our client set very diverse. Whatever the project or client is, my role will be to bring a creative viewpoint to the work and a guiding hand for our clients and staff. That said, all of our people bring a creative view to the work we do, so it’s essentially working with various teams to uncover the right outcome for a client.
I also spend a reasonable portion of my time speaking at universities, mentoring, running an incubator with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and co-ordinating and running the D&AD New Blood briefs with UTS and Enmore Tafe. I have been heavily involved in AGDA over the years, as Vice-chairman and Chairman in New South Wales for a few years. I now I sit on the board of directors, hopefully helping to shape a better organisation for all members.
What are the main challenges of your role?
Running the business, trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible, creating outcomes with seamless design and technology, finding the next brilliant team member, and finding time to walk the dog!
How do you deal with them?
Juggling is not my strong point, and yet it seems I spend an inordinate amount of time doing so. And dropping the ball often.
In the creation process, I’m as much hands on as I am a mentor/guide. There’s a balance to find, between that unwavering focus on creating something brilliant, and the journey to get there. Whereas previously I would stop at nothing to get there, these days I’m far more appreciative of the struggle, and what it takes myself and others to go through to get there. So I try my hardest to make it all worthwhile. By looking out for people, not getting caught up in the irrelevant stuff. It’s never easy or as simple as people think, as much as I wish otherwise.
What’s on the cards this year?
In a couple of months For the People turns three, and no doubt we’ll continue to try and find that sweet spot of running a design company while staying true to the goals and ambitions of the company and people at For the People. We’ll keep doing the kind of work that gets everyone excited and fulfilled and keep challenging ourselves. We’re also about to commence our annual three-month incubator with UTS and three selected students, which is always really interesting and quite a bit of fun.
What can people expect from your talk at the 2017 Spark Festival at Wintec in August?
I’ll be talking about the importance of designers making work that matters. I’ll also be sharing some of the stories, projects and ideas that keep me fighting the good fight in design and pursuing fulfilment through creativity.
I’ll also be doing a workshop with our Experience Design Lead, Jo (also my wife, not that the matters in this context). For the Bots will look at chatbots in a personal, hands-on way through prototyping a bot, and we’ll have conversations around emerging technologies and artificial intelligence.
Find out more about SPARK and Jason’s workshop at: www.spark.net.nz